Bible Commentaries
Joshua 11

Parker's The People's BibleParker's The People's Bible

Verses 1-23

Types of Christian Warfare

Joshua 11:0

AGAIN there seems to be nothing for us in these historical records. Yet, properly understood, these records were only written yesterday, as if with ink of our own making, and by hands that are writing the story today. Surely we find here types of Christian warfare; and surely we find here lessons by which we may direct our energy, as well as our thought, in the great conflict which is going on as between light and darkness, right and wrong, Christ and Belial. Change the words only, and the spirit or thought may remain without modification. Nothing has gone out of this chapter but the mere terms, the proper names of men and of places. The law of warfare remains, because the fact of warfare abides; and the method of warfare is just the same today, substituting spiritual purposes for military thoughts and the usual armour of the battlefield. This might be substantiated incidentally by referring to the great forces which are set in array against the Christ of God. In the first five verses of the chapter we have a statement of the numbers that came out against Joshua:

"And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, and to the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinneroth, and in the valley, and in the borders of Dor on the west, and to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel." ( Jos 11:1-5 )

That is a modern speech. The same kings, being spiritually understood, are meeting today in order to fight the Son of God. The kings have almost always been against him, not the nominal kings only, as the kings of nations and of empires, but the kings of influence, the kings of society, the leaders of public sentiment, influential men scribes, Pharisees, rulers, and the should-be guides of the people. The enemies of Christ are very many in number. We sometimes attempt to create Christian statistics. It is easier work upon that side than upon the other. Arithmetic is less distressed when called upon to state what good there is in the world, as represented by communities and activities, than when asked to give some dim hint of the evil that prevails. Who can give the statistics of the enemy? We have made some approach towards an enumeration of the persons and activities identified with the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ, but where are the black books, the tables of figures that would represent the sin, the sorrow, the heartbreak, the baleful purpose, the selfish design, the cruel disposition, and all manner of evil known amongst men? We are told that there are ten thousand little girls upon the streets of London alone whose name is associated with sin. I do not blame them altogether. Judgment must not fall upon them solely. What do they represent? They must be taken in their symbolical character, as well as judged by their real conduct; and so taken, what is the meaning of it all? Who can trace the lines backward? Who can fix those lines in the proper centres and personalities, and identify those who are socially invisible with this infinite degradation? We are told that if all the drunkeries of Britain were set together, they would make a street six hundred miles long, and that street would be a double street, having a return line equal to the first, so that, if stretched out in one continuity, there would be twelve hundred miles representing the traffic which is doing more to destroy the earth than any other traffic which man can originate or invent. But what does this represent? The matter does not begin and end in thronged buildings, in flaming windows, in flowing poison; there is something behind, round about, and until we can get into the atmosphere of the case we shall not be able to state statistically how evil stands. As many as the sand upon the seashore in multitude are they who are busily engaged in propagating evil. The worst of all evil is the respectable evil, the well-dressed wickedness, the haughty, disdainful blasphemy against all good and truth and love. The worst of all evil is in our own hearts. We are prone to go out in quest of statistics that we may represent how other people are breaking the ten commandments and offending the sanctity of Heaven: "first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." Is there any irony more pitiable, is there any irony less excusable, than our figuring down upon paper, which we shock by the very violence of the figures, how other people are transgressing the law, and saying nothing about our own selfishness, vanity, jealousy, cruelty, and designs to which we dare not give audible expression? "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." The Lord looked down from heaven to see if there were any that did righteously, and he said, "There is none righteous, no, not one." Nor do we add to our supposed morality by publishing statistics against other people. It is quite true that we ought not therefore to spare other vices which are more public and in a social sense more calamitous than the vices which characterise conventional respectability: it is perfectly true that there ought to be exposure and denunciation and judgment and penalty, and that hell is too good for those who work evil; but the two statements are perfectly compatible: whilst we are indignant, and justly and rightly so, with things that we see, we ought to be equally indignant with the things that are hidden in our own hearts. Purify the fountain, and the stream will be clean; make the tree good, and the fruit will be good. Thus there are two aspects, both of which may be zealously maintained, but no one of which ought to be maintained at the expense of the other. Blessed be every man who, having found evil, tears the mask from its face, and blessed be that man who is busy casting the beam out of his own eye whilst he is mourning the frailties, the follies, the wickedness and ineffable iniquity of others.

Not only are the enemies of Christ very numerous, but they are perfectly united. There is a common consent amongst them. They hate the good. They are unanimous, and their unanimity is power. Though they sin in different ways, so that the details seemingly have no relation to one another, yet there is an understood unanimity amongst bad men, there is a password of evil, there is a touch which is known throughout the infamous fraternity. Bad men support one another. Herein they set Christians an example. Christians are not united. There is no body of men so disunited as the Christian body. What are they doing? Setting one opinion against another, battling for isms, contradicting one another publicly and bluntly, assailing one another, creating indictments which involve petty heterodoxies or erratic thinkings amongst honest men; whereas Christians ought to begin with this fact, namely: we are one brotherhood; we are one in our worship of Christ, in our trust of the Cross, in our expectation from Calvary; we are one in prayer. The moment we begin to pray, all hearts throb in one grand energy; the moment we begin to speak to one another, contradiction sets in. Then let us leave everything of the nature of dispute contradiction, and variety of opinion, and show a common front to the common enemy. There is no occasion to say that we are undervaluing opinions, differences, and varieties of conviction and expression; we are now speaking relatively, and I cannot but repeat that, in view of enemies many as the sand upon the seashore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many, the one grand question amongst Christians should be, How far are we one? and not, How far can we divide and subdivide ourselves, and separate one from another as if in vital hostility? All the world over the bad man supports the bad man. He may not do so openly, but there is an understanding between them: the one bad man knows that if his house falls, the other man's house is in danger; or when the other man's house falls, his own dwelling is in peril. Whatever the differences in name and detail and circumstance, evil is one, and evil gathers itself together in tremendous concentration to fight against the Son of God.

The forces of evil are many, united, and desperate. They have made up their minds to work rack and ruin. We have covered over a great deal of enmity, but it is still there, as rank and virulent as ever. There are men within sound of the church-going bells who would tear down the bells, or use them to announce some other act and some other day than Christian service and resurrection morning. Within the sweep of our own observation there are men who would burn the Bible, dig up the very foundations of the sanctuary, destroy the memory of the Cross of Christ We need not go to heathen lands or foreign countries, and talk about the opposition which is offered to the gospel of Christ. There is no such opposition in many of these places, for the simple reason that the name of Christ is not known. The rancorous and awful opposition to the Cross of Christ is in our own hearts, in our own life, and may be within the circuit of our own influence. Wicked men let us repeat again and again are desperate. Never undervalue the force that is against you. Nothing is to be gained by pouring contempt upon the numbers that are arrayed against the kingdom of Christ. There are those who would say, The enemy can be but few in number why heed a dozen men? Why make any account of a hundred souls? What are they in relation to the great numbers which constitute the army of Christ? Pour contempt upon no one man. The kingdom of heaven itself is like a grain of mustard seed: it had a small beginning, and it has gone forward under the contempt and opposition of the world to its present position, whatever that may be, in beneficence and nobleness. One desperate man is an army. One really earnest man is a host, either on the one side or the other. There are so many ciphers; the number is very great, but the value is nothing; the value would be increased if even one unit could be set at their head: that one unit would shoot a value through every empty cipher and make it stand up the symbol of number and force and goodness. Woe betide the Church when, shutting her doors and closing her windows, she simply looks round upon her own congregation and supposes that congregation to be the world! At any given moment in Christian history the majority of men, taken by numbers, has been dead against the Messiah-ship of Christ.

What, then, is to be done? A dreary picture has been drawn; a very discouraging outlook has been taken in some respects and in some directions: what is to be done? The answer is in the sixth verse:

"And the Lord said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel; thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire." ( Jos 11:6 )

Joshua did his work thoroughly. In the twelfth verse we read, "he utterly destroyed them." We want thorough work. We have partially cut down many vices: we have shaved off the top of them, but the root is still there, and, as we have seen before, the vine is the root, not the flower, not the blossom. What would be said of the husbandman who simply took the top off the poisonous tree which was destroying the fertility of his land? We should describe him as thoughtless, foolish, unwise altogether, and exhort him to dig up the root and burn it with unquenchable fire. What would be said of the man who painted himself a healthy colour, who, without taking note of the internal disease, simply concealed its symptoms under a coating of fine tint that should express to the casual observer real health? We should call him "fool;" we should describe him in the severest terms; we should designate him a madman. But what is that to what we ourselves may be doing, washing the outside of the cup and platter, while the inside is full of rottenness and dead men's bones? The eyes of judgment will look upon the inside, and many an outside flaw or stain will be forgiven or excused because of the friction of life and the multitudinousness of our relations; but the inside, the interior, that will be judged, and that will be approved or condemned.

Sweet is the last word: "the land rested from war" ( Jos 11:23 ). The tocsin sounded no more; the trumpet was not again heard. The whole earth is to be at peace with God, and therefore at peace with itself. The sword and the spear are to be turned into ploughshare and pruning-hook, and the shiel is to be hung up in the hall a piece of ancient history, only preserved that it may stimulate to holier thanksgiving and profounder prayer. The land had rest from war. The fiend went abroad no more. Man came to man as brother to brother. Feuds and differences and separations were things of the past. Every man knew the Lord; every man prayed with his brother-man in happy consent. This is a great outlook from the Christian's specular tower: he sees the morning of peace, the day of light, the Sabbath of humanity; and he preaches in that tone the great, glad, triumphant voice, like the voice of many waters; he says, Peace is coming; the battle-flag is furled; and the world is at last at peace! Towards that end we are moving. We are not ashamed of the issue; we are hoping for it, praying for it, working for it. Ask what the Christian Church is doing, and if in earnest, she is doing this one thing only fighting for peace, praying against evil; and all she does tends in the direction of "the federation of the world."

Selected Notes

Jabin, king of Hazor. (1) One of the most powerful of all the princes who reigned in Canaan when it was invaded by the Israelites. His dominion seems to have extended over all the north part of the country; and after the ruin of the league formed against the Hebrews in the south by Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, he assembled his tributaries near the waters of Merom (the lake Huleh), and called all the people to arms. This coalition was destroyed, as the one in the south had been, and Jabin himself perished in the sack of Hazor, his capital, b.c. 1450. This prince was the last powerful enemy with whom Joshua combated, and his overthrow seems to have been regarded as the crowning act in the conquest of the Promised Land ( Jos 11:1-14 ).

(2) A king of Hazor, and probably descended from the preceding. It appears that during one of the servitudes of the Israelites, probably when they lay under the yoke of Cushan or Eglon, the kingdom of Hazor was reconstructed. The narrative gives to this second Jabin even the title of "king of Canaan;" and this, with the possession of nine hundred iron-armed war-chariots, implies unusual power and extent of dominion. The iniquities of the Israelites having lost them the divine protection, Jabin gained the mastery over them; and stimulated by the remembrance of ancient wrongs, oppressed them heavily for twenty years. From this thraldom they were relieved by the great victory won by Barak in the plain of Esdraelon, over the hosts of Jabin, commanded by Sisera, one of the most renowned generals of those times, b.c. 1285. The well-compacted power of the king of Hazor was not yet, however, entirely broken. The war was still prolonged for a time, but ended in the entire ruin of Jabin, and the subjugation of his territories by the Israelites (Judg. iv.). This is the Jabin whose name occurs in Psalms 83:10 .

The question has been raised whether these two Jabins were not one and the same; and the affirmative has by some been assumed as an argument against the authenticity of the narrative in Joshua; while others think that the two narratives may be of events so nearly contemporaneous that they may have happened in the lifetime of the same person. This latter hypothesis, however, cannot possibly be retained; for even supposing that the ordinary chronology, which places the defeat of Sisera one hundred and fifty years after the time of Joshua, requires correction, no correction that can be legitimately made will render it possible to synchronise the two narratives, nor can we suppose that within the lifetime of one man Hazor could have been rebuilt, the shattered kingdom of its ruler restored, and that ruler enabled to tyrannise over his former conquerors for twenty years.


Almighty God, we know that thou art love, but what love is, who can tell? Yet we feel after thee because of our need of One greater and better than ourselves. Our souls have often cried in the darkness, O that I knew where I might find him: I would come unto him, and order my speech before him. We know where thou art; unto us who live in these latter days is the sanctuary of the Almighty well known. Thou art in Christ Jesus thy Son. Thou art in the Cross of redemption; thou art always to be found there; to that Cross, therefore, we now come, and our eyes are unto it with the eagerness of love and expectation. Thou wilt not disappoint the look of trust; thou hast never denied the prayer of simple faith. Thou wilt not deny our prayer when we ask for pardon, saying, God be merciful unto us, sinners, and forgive us our iniquities, and cleanse us from all our sins. To this prayer thou hast but one reply. Whilst we are yet speaking, may we hear the answer, and stand up like men who have heard music from heaven. We rejoice in a pardoning God. We need pardon. We have done wrong; but thou art merciful as well as righteous, and there are tears in the eyes of judgment. We come to thy compassion, not to thy righteousness; we hasten to thy Cross, O Christ, and not to. the throne of the judge. Who can stand when God inquireth for life? What man may abide the look of justice? But we come to Christ; we stand at the Cross; we hope in the mysterious blood, the wondrous sacrifice, not to be explained, but to be felt: an influence that touches the heart, a ministry that awakens the love. Send none unblessed from thy word; let a portion of meat be given to each in due season; and may we feel that in perusing thy Book we have been enjoying a spiritual feast, eating and drinking in the King's presence, and that we have been refreshed and satisfied and stimulated by the bounty of thy house. Amen.

Verse 15

"Handfuls of Purpose"

For All Gleaners

"He left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses." Jos 11:15

A easy sentence, but a most difficult process. First of all, here is an assumption that Joshua was a student. How did he know what the Lord had commanded Moses, except by diligent inquiry and stud)? Not only was Joshua a student, he was a minute or critical student. He did not take a merely general view of divine commandment, but went into particularity; "he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses;" the word "all" is the critical point. Here is a process of enumeration, weighing, balancing, and allotment: some things are to be done by day and some by night; some things were essentially and others relatively important; Joshua had to study the perspective of the moral outlook, and not to commit folly by the transposition of persons or events. Not only was Joshua a student, and a critical student, he was a man of active obedience. His life was a process of doing. He found enough to do from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same. God has left no vacant hours in all the day. God has made benevolent preparation for sleep or rest, but he has also made abundant arrangements for industry and service. Not only was Joshua a student, a critical student, and a man of active obedience, but he was inspired by the thought that all he did was done under the direction and for the glory of God. It is something to know that we are working, for what master we are acting, and in view of what reward. The strength is often found in the motive. Far behind all outward instrumentality, we find our power in spiritual philosophy, thought, and confidence. Herein is the supreme value of prayer: it shuts us up in close communion with God; it leads us to the very fountain of power; it clothes us with ineffable dignity. A blessed thing it is to realise that our whole life-plan is laid down for us. In the matter of moral purity and action we have nothing to invent; the commandments are all written, and will all be understood by the heart that really wishes to know their meaning. It is a sign of a false life when a man hesitates on the ground that he really does not know what his duty is. Duty is perfectly and continually plain to the man whose motive is simple. "What doth the Lord thy God require of thee?" "What is written in the law?" "How readest thou?" There can only be bewilderment in the matter of detail; there can never be any confusion as to the distinction between right and wrong, noble and ignoble, upward and downward.

Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 11". Parker's The People's Bible. 1885-95.